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Former metal basher adds a notch to its high-tech belt

11 April 2011

A traditional sheet metal fabricator, which was set up by two business partners back in the early 1960s, has completed its latest project, building on its reinvention as a high-tech developer of innovative electro-mechanical products

North East engineering company Tharsus Group, which employs 90 people at Blyth and Hebburn, has helped an industrial consumables specialist to develop its idea for a novel vending machine into a marketable product. The Pro-Vyda dispenses all sizes of production parts, tools and safety equipment directly to workers on the shop floor. The project saw Peterlee-based Propeller GB approach Tharsus with its early concept for a new industrial vending machine, seeking its help in developing the idea from the prototype stage to a market-ready product.

Tharsus Group’s engineering team worked with Propeller to develop the Pro-Vyda concept, taking it from the design and refinement stages through to detailed costings, prototypes and eventually full production. Pro-Vyda is believed to be unique to the market, thanks to a flexible modular design that allows full customisation of its dimensions, drawer sizes and interior layout, depending on customer requirements. Moreover, it makes use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in order to update back-office inventory and costing systems. Tharsus Group’s technical director Dave Swan takes up the story.

“Many of our clients come to us with a great idea for a product, but they lack the engineering expertise to take it through the development process, which is where our multi-disciplinary team of experts really adds value. In Propeller’s case, we could see the commercial potential for a vending machine that could be positioned close to the workspace and quickly dispense parts on the spot.

“We worked with them to develop the idea to a level that would achieve the EC quality conformance mark, then went on to produce proof of concept and full prototypes for Propeller to review. The final stage was to go into full production of what is now a very marketable product that saves time and money.

“The beauty of the Pro-Vyda design is that we can customise it on Propeller’s behalf for any type of tool or component, in any type of industry, and at a very late stage in the manufacturing process if necessary. It would equally be at home on a factory floor or in a hospital, and it’s a prime example of how we are able to bring our expertise to bear in transforming an innovative idea into a product ready for mass production.” Propeller’s technology director Jon Elwell certainly agrees:

“Although we had the initial concept and the software solution to make it work, we needed a partner like Tharsus with the innovative approach and engineering expertise to turn a concept into a product. Thanks to support from a couple of rounds of investment funding we were able to go into production with Tharsus rather than create our own manufacturing facility, and we are now marketing Pro-Vyda right across the UK manufacturing sector, where take up has been very healthy.

“There is a lot of potential out there and we expect to take it to the global market within the next 12 months. We are now working with Tharsus as our manufacturing partner on our new RFID innovations.”

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